Want to boost sales in your store? Get diners to enjoy your restaurant more? Feel relaxed in your dental surgery? Forget piped Muzak. Bland “elevator tunes” won’t cut it any more – yet well-chosen music can significantly improve the customer experience, according to surveys.
Muzak’s successor, Mood Media, is one of the best known and largest “instore media solutions companies” covering sound, sight, scent and social media. It carefully picks music, video and more from millions of fully-licensed tracks available from nearly all record labels to enhance each retail brand. That list differs totally with each case – from mainstream pop to some 15 other genres such as blues, reggae, post-punk, jazz and disco. Each can be used to encourage people to eat, drink, stay, relax, invest, dance or even sleep.
“Whereas in the days gone by and in the halcyon days of Muzak, the audio was more treated as audio wallpaper, now the audio is more treated as an integral component of the brand experience,” says Danny Turner of Mood Media. “It has evolved so much more – it is no longer just some 150 snappy songs put together by a play lister. We don’t come back and say ‘let’s start out with, say, Lana Del Rey and work our way back,’ we start with the brand and work our way in the other direction.”
Turner is keen the stress that Mood has thousands of “curated experiences” which can be built right down to even considering how it matches a client’s floor covering, décor or tableware. It clearly doesn’t necessarily follow that all the tracks being played include big chart hits.
“All of the usual suspects, you can imagine. I was just telling one of our music designers yesterday, ‘there really is no secret sauce to it.’ Pop music is popular and if it is a Drake experience or a Lana Del Rey experience that’s going on then, that’s fantastic. If Bruno Mars or Beyoncé work, we are going to run with it – but they are not going to be there just because they are in this position on the Billboard chart. We are not beholden to what the radio or sales charts tell us to play, we are only beholden to the experience and it may not be the same experience the customer had in their 2007 Honda Civic in pulling up to your shop.”
Turner, who started as a deejay and helped launch XM Satellite Radio, is now Global Senior Vice President, Creative Programming at Mood Media, designing experiences for the likes of Target TGT +2.2%, CVS, McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Marriott. The company’s client lists also includes PetSmart, Wendy’s, The Body Shop, Primark and Club Fitness as well as local coffee shops, salons, hotels and more – it claims 500,000 paid locations in 100 countries and 150 million listeners a day. It also covers “360 degree solutions” for ecommerce, partnering with Pandora , iHeart Radio, Shazam and others. While the company has faced reports about accumulated debt in the past, it remains bullish after changing hands, with $464 million in revenue last year.
The total market is hard to value, though with digital streaming for businesses put at least $1 billion a year, a multiple of this is likely for bricks-and-mortar retail. Obviously, some retailers are convinced the service is good value-for-money in building brand experience and sales. Therefore the potential value in increased revenue may be even more, though tough to calculate.
Surveys continue to show that the right music increases the likelihood of purchases in many stores and customers’ positive perceptions of shopping, though there are few confirmed figures on the average boost. Retail analysts note that store owners might be hard pressed to quantify the amount, whether based on time in store, amount spent or overall satisfaction rating, and this has resulted in increased competition for music providers.